We need to start stigmatizing the banks that fund climate disaster -- Wells Fargo is a great place to start.
When the Army Crops of Engineers denied Energy Transfer Partners a permit to drill under the Missouri River, the Standing Rock Sioux won a huge victory against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but the struggle is far from over. Standing Rock leadership have made this clear: “While this is clearly a victory, the battle is not over,” states the Camp of the Sacred Stones website: “Organizers continue to call for every day of December to be “a day of #NoDAPL action” against the investors of the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
For us liberals and progressives here in Seattle that should mean one thing: we have our orders.
The largest investor in the Dakota Access Pipeline that has a large presence in Seattle is Wells Fargo: they finance the Dakota Access Pipeline and the corporation behind the project, Energy Transfer Partners, to the tune of $467 million.
That is why the people of Seattle who stand with Standing Rock are responding to the call for actions by participating in a mass action and closure of accounts at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, January 5th, as well as a rolling series of actions and protests throughout the month.
If you are, like me, a Wells Fargo customer, and you believe in standing up for Indigenous rights and sovereignty, standing up for human rights and standing up for our right to a livable planet, you should join this day of action.
You can sign up for the action here; or learn more about how exactly to move your money, and some better banking alternatives, here.
Going after the financiers of the Dakota Access Pipeline makes strategic sense: With the latest delay, Energy Transfer Partners are going to have to renegotiate the terms of their deal with the refineries and there is widespread belief that this will change the economics of the project - giving financiers the perfect opportunity to pull out and leave the project crippled. Some banks have already started to do this.
Last month, Norwegian bank DNB pulled over $300 million worth of funding from the pipeline. Other banks have chosen to divest their money entirely from Energy Transfer Partners.
The moral imperative in closing your account with Wells Fargo is clear: Energy Transfer Partners are a corporation that has willingly set attack dogs on nonviolent protectors, bulldozed Native American sacred sites and sat back and watched as police have launched brutal and violent assaults against unarmed men, women and children. To support the institutions that finance a corporation guilty of such barbarity is, quite simply, to be complicit in the system -- and to be complicit is to be morally culpable.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu summed up the moral argument of the fossil fuel divestment movement: "People of conscience need to break their ties with the corporations financing the injustice of climate change.”
It was leaders like Archbishop Tutu that helped the fossil fuel divestment movement become the most successful divestment movement of all time: With almost $5 trillion committing to removing its investments in the fossil fuel industry, the divestment movement helped to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry and to create the global political environment that made last year’s historic agreement in Paris possible.
But now it is time for the divestment movement to evolve and to grow.
It's about time that we started to stigmatize not just the fossil fuel industry, but also those industries that underwrite and finance climate change and destructive projects like the Dakota Access: namely, the banks.
The exact same theory of divestment, as applied to the fossil fuel industry these past five years, applies equally to the banks, upon whose support the fossil fuel industry is dependent.
And just as Tutu’s words apply equally to both the banks and the fossil fuel corporations themselves, so too do those of former United Nations climate chief, Christiana Figueres: “The investments that we are going to make globally over the next five years … will determine the quality of life for future generations, simple as that.”
In short, we need to start taking our money out of the problem, and putting it into the solution. People of conscience need to start letting the big banks know that as long as they finance climate disaster and horrific projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, we will go after them, damage their public image and refuse to give them our custom.
Of course, it isn’t just Wells Fargo. Almost all of the big banks finance the fossil fuel industry to the tune of dozens of billions of dollars a year.
But, Wells Fargo, with its recent track record of racism, deception and corporate greed, seems like as good a place as any to start.